Many people have told me, “You are so brave” for leaving my job and moving to Thailand. I don’t think it was brave; a bit risky, yes. I gave away everything and left. Adventurous? Of course. Leaving for some place new is always adventurous. I didn’t know what to expect. But I also put a lot of thought into the move.
Regardless of your reasons to leave, going to a new place, whether moving to another part of town or abroad, can be intimidating for some. It doesn’t have to be. Traveling is one thing, staying for an extended period of time, is another. As a traveler, if you don’t find something in a town, you can make do without, try in another town, or wait until you go home. As a longer-term resident, you have to adapt and make it your home.
If you feel you need a change in life, go for it. Here are a few things to consider before making the leap to a new country. Keep in mind, this may not be completely relevant to everyone. However, this may help you to decide where to go if you have a choice.
I love food. And you probably do too. Everyone loves food. It’s one of the things we need to exist. I knew I wanted to leave the U.S. for some time, but had absolutely no idea where to go or what to do once I was out. One of the reasons I thought of Thailand was because I love Thai food. So, my best advice is to go where you will like the food or can adapt to the food.
For example, if you have a peanut allergy, if you don’t like curry, if you can’t handle different types of spices, then Thailand may not be for you. And that’s perfectly okay. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may have a hard time in some rural areas (if not in India). You may consider a more populated town or city, as they typically have more diversity in their cuisine.
Cooking at home may not always be an option. If your apartment isn’t already furnished, this means investment in equipment, dishes, cookware, and spices. If staying for a long time, it may be worth it to invest in these things. But if you are only staying for 6 months or a year, it may not be reasonable to spend money on those things if you are on a budget.
Finding good food is essential to adapting to a new country. If eating is a struggle every day, everything will be a struggle. Furthermore, some cultures define themselves by their culinary art. To be able to appreciate the food is to appreciate the culture. If you can, do some research on the type of cuisine found in the area you are considering going to go. If you love it/can handle it, then that is one less thing to worry about!
2.) Cost of living
Save all of your pennies. If moving from a “developed” country where your currency is stronger, your savings can go a long way. One of the reasons I chose Thailand is the cost of living. For the same amount one would pay for a studio in DC per month, I could pay rent for the whole year. The whole year! And I paid more than the average Thai person because it’s a “novelty” place with many other foreigners. Rent is cheap. Food is cheap. Everything else is a bonus, but that’s cheap too.
3.) Climate and environment
Do you hate the cold? I do too. It was important for me to choose a place abroad with a lot of sun. Yes, I could have just moved to Florida, but that’s not the point. By considering the environment, you’ll also get an idea of what to pack, what to expect. How are the seasons? Is there a monsoon season? Is it susceptible to extreme weather? Will your allergies act up? These questions may seem silly at first, but logical.
4.) Staying legal
Do you plan to work? Can you get a job easily? What kinds of jobs do they have? Will they sponsor your visa? What is the visa process? If you don’t want to work, what is the process for getting an extended tourist visa and renewing it? Visa overstay fines are hefty, and can even land you in jail. Always make sure you are legally in the country and register with your embassy and let them know your whereabouts.
In many countries that are advertised in the media as danger zones, people are still going on about their daily lives with no problems. But there are a few things to consider as a foreigner. You stick out like a sore thumb and everyone will notice you. So is that a problem? Keep in mind as a foreigner, you are expected to abide by local laws. If the country you are considering has a conflict area, check your embassy for a list of recommendations.
I loved my time in abroad in Thailand. Even though I had some issues, overall, it was a wonderful experience. I am so glad I went! I had the chance to experience a beautiful culture in-depth, travel throughout the country and region, and gain a unique perspective. I am very fortunate to have a valid passport and a sense of adventure. I am also fortunate that I am a young woman with few potentially restraining responsibilities. I am fortunate to have saved up some money so I could have a smoother transition. I was okay leaving my stable job and apartment because those things are replaceable. But experiences are not!
Having the opportunity to live abroad for fun is a major privilege. If you have a chance, don’t hesitate, go for it!
Photo credit Kem Ramirez Photography